Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I said that pride can be a problem for us, even though we may be surprised by that. There is a right kind of pride, a kind that is appropriate, and then there’s the wrong use of pride. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the difference.
What’s wrong with being proud of your appearance? Nothing.
There’s all kinds of pride we can think about:
- lost pride
- a wounded pride
- hurt or restored pride
- a foolish pride
- lasting or injured pride.
There’s such a thing as false pride—and what about a mother’s pride in her children. So there is a variety of meanings. But I’m talking about the wrong use of pride. The kind that leads to arrogance or a sense that I’m the most important person in the world.
Louis XIV, the French monarch, referring to an occasion when a coach he had ordered arrived just in time, said, “I almost had to wait.”
Or the British actor in a post office, who pointed at a stamp in the middle of a sheet, and said: “I’ll have that one, please.” In both situations, pride and arrogance got in the way.
That’s why Proverbs 16:18 says, “Too much pride will destroy you”. And in the New Testament James said in his epistle chapter 4: “God opposes everyone who is proud, but he is kind to everyone who is humble”. (James 4:6 – CEV)
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What Is Pride?
What exactly is pride? And to understand this word first we need to realise that pride is not always a sin. I mean, there is such a thing as good pride. Good pride is seen in healthy self-respect, dignity, satisfaction in a job well done, joy in seeing others succeed—those kinds of things.
But the other kind—bad pride is conceit, egotism, it’s an attitude of superiority that manifests itself in arrogance and boasting.
This reminds me of a conversation an airline stewardess once had with Mohammed Ali when he was young and arrogant—just beginning his amazing career. Ali was on a plane and refused to fasten his seat belt. The stewardess came up to him and asked him to do so but he said, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” She looked at him and said, “Superman don’t need no plane.”
Well, simply put, pride is this assumption that we are somehow better than other people—that we are more important than others.
Here are some reasons I believe pride is so self-destructive:
- It keeps us from recognising our weaknesses: Some have mistakenly understood humility as looking down on yourself, but true humility involves not the discounting of ourselves but an accurate estimate of ourselves. Pride causes us to overestimate our abilities and character.
- Pride is self-destructive: Because we over-estimate who we are, we often enter a state of denial about our personal needs which keeps us from taking the action we need to take.
For example, a husband gets into an argument with his wife. Both say things that are inappropriate to the other. Yet, because of his pride he cannot admit that he did anything wrong in the situation. Therefore, he is unwilling to apologise or take any steps toward reconciliation.
Or consider an alcoholic who believes she has everything under control. “I can stop anytime I want,” she says. Yet the truth is, she can’t go a day without alcohol. It is absolutely controlling her life. As a result, she will not seek help.
The High Price of Pride
Perhaps the most critical scenario is the person who because of pride cannot admit that they have sinned and need forgiveness. Because of their pride, they may never repent and receive God’s forgiveness. What a tragedy to be without Christ because of pride!
Yes, pride has a high price. Toy with it long enough and it will cost you everything. Christ was humble; if we are to be like him, we must repent of our pride.
Pride is believing that you are above others. Also, when people believe they are above others they often believe that they do not need God and they can live without him.
Jesus tells an incredibly powerful story in the 18th chapter of Luke about how dangerous pride can be.
Here are two men who go to the temple to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee, no doubt a wise, accomplished, and conscientious man, launches into a proud prayer at the expense of others. He is lifting himself up by putting others down.
He says, “Thank you God that I am not like these other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or like this tax man here. I fast and tithe on all of my income. Aren’t I wonderful? Don’t you just love me, God? I love me too.”
He is starkly contrasted with a tax collector, standing far away and humbled to the depths of his being. He really doesn’t care about anyone else; he knows how much he needs help. He cannot even look up to God, but beats his breast and says, “God, please have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
The Pharisee cannot be helped, because he doesn’t even know he needs help. He is so full of himself that none of God’s grace could possibly enter in. But the tax collector is an empty vessel, he is broken and contrite, ready to receive God’s redeeming love.
His spirit is in pain. He knows how much he needs God. His lack of pride allows him to receive all of God’s gifts, grace upon grace. He is stripped bare, and ready to be filled with forgiveness.
How often do we think to ourselves, “Well, I may be bad off, but at least I am not like him”. Comparisons are never helpful, and this story illustrates that the worst sort of pride is spiritual pride.
It is a barrier to salvation and growth in the grace of God. We need God’s forgiveness and grace every day, and there’s no room for arrogance and false pride.